Photo/video by @CariExarhos
April Ottey is a jewelry artist whose work explores the transformative power of nature. She focuses on the intricate details of the natural world—the architecture, texture, and shape of natural artifacts—in order to draw attention to the beauty surrounding us that we too often overlook.
Each piece of April’s jewelry is the culmination of a twofold passion. Firstly, she takes the time to truly see. April notices beauty where many people tend to zoom out—in the delicate petals of a blossom, in the geometry of a fallen seedpod, in the intricate texture of tree bark. It is a skill she has been refining since her childhood in Montana, which she spent almost entirely outdoors picking up anything and everything that piqued her interest. The second piece of her process is transformation. April casts the natural objects she’s collected and incorporates her own contemporary artistic vision, and in the fusion of the two, creates something wholly new: adornments that catch the eye and rouse the spirit.
In her home studio on the Washington coast, crafting jewelry has become her full-time job. She uses traditional casting techniques to transform the natural items she collects into sterling silver and gold. She then embellishes many pieces with beach stones and gemstones using traditional metalsmithing techniques. She uses ethically-sourced metals and stones, and she takes great care in the craftsmanship of each piece.
April has been making jewelry for over 20 years, but her love of fusing nature and art goes back even further. She got an MFA in photography that allowed her to focus on how natural and manmade forms coalesced. Shortly after getting the MFA, she turned her attention to metalsmithing. The single obsession that has spanned her entire life is being outside, which is why her art has always deconstructed the boundaries between being outside and inside. Her work untethers the wonder of nature from the necessity of having to be outside to experience it. The feelings of inspiration and awe—that arise when you’re standing among the first spring flowers of the season, deep in a pine forest, or in the wet sand of a beach at low tide—can travel with you in the form of beautiful, durable reminders.
In addition to making her jewelry available in numerous galleries throughout the northwest, April has a history of making herself available as a teacher to developing artists, as well. For ten years, she taught a high school course on jewelry and art in Pasco, Washington. She has assisted at many jewelry workshops over the years, including Idyllwild in southern California and Penland in North Carolina.
She is member of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen Guild, Seattle Metals Guild, Society of Northern American Goldsmiths (SNAG), and Allied Arts.
Here you can view some of the process behind the making of my one-of-a-kind octopus ring. For more information about my process and techniques check out the video library at the bottom of this page.